Photo/IllutrationPlaintiffs march toward the Yokohama District Court on Aug. 4 to submit a lawsuit seeking an end to noise pollution from U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi. (Hiroya Furuta)

YOKOHAMA--Thousands of residents living near the U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi filed yet another lawsuit with the district court here Aug. 4 to demand an end to intolerable noise levels that have made their lives a misery for decades.

The Atsugi base is used by both the U.S. military and Self-Defense Forces, and because of its location in a heavily populated area that includes the Kanagawa Prefecture cities of Ayase and Yamato, the facility has been described as "the most dangerous in Japan."

A total of 6,063 residents living in eight cities in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture joined the lawsuit. In addition to seeking an injunction on military flights, the group is demanding 8.632 billion yen ($78.4 million) in compensation.

Other plaintiffs are expected to sign on by the end of the year, which could bring the total tally to as many as 10,000 residents, which would make it the largest such legal action against Atsugi base noise pollution.

But even then, that would pale against the 3 million people living in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture who are believed to be affected by the excruciating noise levels at the Atsugi base.

A core issue in the lawsuit will be whether an injunction can be invoked on U.S. military aircraft, the primary cause of the noise pollution.

Since the first lawsuit was filed in 1976, past court verdicts have acknowledged that noise pollution levels around the base were illegal.

In the fourth lawsuit, groundbreaking verdicts in the district and high courts for the first time ordered a stop to SDF flights at night and early in the morning. However, the Supreme Court later overturned that verdict.

All Japanese courts have rejected an injunction on U.S. military flights on grounds such matters are beyond the control of the Japanese government.

The fifth lawsuit involves both a civil and administrative filing as a means for obtaining an injunction on military flights. For the first time, the lawsuit also calls on the Japanese government to hold discussions with the United States to resolve the noise levels.

The amount of compensation sought for each plaintiff has also been doubled to 40,000 yen a month covering the past three years as well as for future damages until the injunction is implemented.

Noise pollution of more than 70 decibels lasting for more than five seconds has been recorded on 20,000 or so occasions in the vicinity of the Atsugi base. Flights still continue at night and plane parts have fallen on surrounding areas.

Shuji Onami, leader of the residents' group, said, "Although the U.S. aircraft carrier-based planes that are the main cause of the noise pollution are scheduled to move to Iwakuni (in Yamaguchi Prefecture) soon, we have no idea if the noise pollution will be reduced so we have to keep up with the fight."